Thiruvananthapuram, May 31: Jain Jose Kadicheeni’s first call to his brother from Saudia Arabia was on May 21. Everything was fine, the 24-year-old — barely a fortnight into his Gulf career as a manager — had said.
It was the last time his family, back home in Thrissur, would hear his voice. Less than 10 days later, he was dead.
In Alappuzha, some 150 km from Thrissur, Pradeep Kumar’s family was looking forward to the arrival of its sole breadwinner when a local channel announced the news of his death on Sunday morning.
A plumbing supervisor at the al Oasis complex, Pradeep was planning to take his son Pratheesh to Saudi Arabia and wind up his nearly 18-year desert tenure.
Drawn by dreams of success in a foreign land, Jain and Pradeep had not bargained for fate in the guise of hooded al Qaida terrorists who struck in the Saudi oil city of Khobar on Saturday.
While Pradeep’s family copes with their loss, Jain’s death is the latest tragedy to strike his brother and sister. Both their parents are dead.
“Jain had wanted to tour the world. He was adequately equipped, with a degree in hotel management and successful stints in managerial cadre at Hotel Leela Penta and Orchid in Mumbai,” said his cousin Jomy George, a lawyer in Thrissur.
With both parents dead, Jain had been under the care of his elder brother Sain Jose, a businessman in Thrissur. Younger sister Meera was in Chennai with her husband, a bank manager.
Jain had chosen hotel management as a career. As there were not enough opportunities in Kerala, he had done his graduation in hotel management at Ramaiah College in Bangalore.
According to one version, Jain was caught and shot dead while trying to escape from captivity. It is also possible he was caught in the crossfire between the militants and rescuers. But family sources had a harrowing tale to tell.
“From Sunday to Monday morning, we were in the dark about the fate of Jain. His cousin Vineetha, whose husband Ajoy Alex is an engineer in Saudi Arabia, finally identified the body this morning,” said a source. Till then, there was no official word.
Jomy said arrangements were being made to bring the body by a Saudi Airlines flight in the next three days.
The family met with a typical response from the Air-India office at Kochi. A-I officials were ignorant about an undertaking to be faxed from the family showing its willingness to receive the body. However, Saudi Airlines readily obliged, with the requisite application form.
The same was the complaint from M.S. Karunakaran, a local political worker in Alappuzha When contacted, Non-Resident Keralite Affairs (NORKA) minister M.M. Hassan told The Telegraph there was no mechanism in the secretariat to work round the clock. “We have a deputy secretary in NORKA to deal with such matters. But the official’s working hours are like any other government staff,” said the minister.
He added that he had already placed a proposal before the external affairs ministry for a fast line of communication in such situations.
‘Indians not targeted’
In a statement issued today, the foreign ministry said the Indians who died in the attack in Khobar were not the primary targets but “victims of the circumstances”.
Expressing “deep regret” at the deaths of 22 people of different nationalities, including eight Indians, South Block condemned the “wanton act of terrorism” which led to the “loss of innocent lives and damage to property”.
The statement said: “The Indian casualties were victims of the circumstances rather than pre-meditated targets for attack.”
It pointed out that the Indian embassy in Riyadh had deputed two teams for rendering “consular and other assistance, including informing the next of kin and for repatriation of the bodies to India”.
The embassy will also address the issue of compensation with the Saudi authorities, the statement added.